Some North Carolina public beaches begin to reopen

You're one step closer to a beach trip -- but don't pack your bags yet.

Some North Carolina beaches are lifting a few of the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Crews began removing barriers at all 36 Surf City public beach access points Friday. The beaches will be open Saturday.

However, public parking and restrooms at the public beach access points will remain closed as directed by the statewide Stay-at-Home order.

Anyone using the public beach access is encouraged to continue practicing social distance and proper health safety.

The Town of Surf City said short-term rentals at the beaches will remain suspended through May 15.

Starting Friday, Atlantic Beach is also lifting some restrictions.

The beach has been opened to Atlantic Beach residents, property owners, and residents of Carteret County.

But access to tourists is still restricted and public parking lots and bathrooms remain closed.

Gatherings of 10 or more are still off-limits and there are no lifeguards at the beach.

Travel restrictions in North Carolina are having an unintended consequence: seashells.

Beaches along the Outer Banks are seeing thousands of seashells wash ashore. Experts say the number of seashells arriving is not unusual, but without spring breakers there to pick them up and take them home, the shells are piling up.

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New Hanover County beach towns, including Wilmington, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach have extended the county's existing Stay-at-Home Order until April 29 at 5 p.m.

Some restrictions were lifted this week, however: public and private marinas and boat ramps can be opened; public and private tennis and pickleball courts can be opened.

"I want to thank the residents of Wrightsville Beach for your cooperation and patience in meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been some difficult decisions made that have affected all of us. I acknowledge that it has been frustrating and difficult for most," Wrightsville Beach Mayor Darryl Mills said Wednesday on social media. "We have been regularly conferring with the New Hanover County elected and public health officials and the mayors of the other municipalities in the County. We do recognize the potential health benefits of getting outside and engaging in physical activity."

Mills said to look for an announcement soon that will provide "for limited access to Wrightsville Beach for some activities."

In Virginia, emergency management officials say lifeguard patrols at Virginia Beach will likely be limited at beaches through Memorial Day weekend and through the month of May. Beaches there remain open for fishing and exercise.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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